Through the years, Ecotrust staff and board have witnessed the power and transformative nature of Indigenous leadership time and time again. In 2001, we created the Indigenous Leadership Award (ILA) to acknowledge the work of under-recognized Native leaders who have worked quietly yet persistently on behalf of their communities and Native people regionally, nationally, and internationally.
These Indigenous leaders–from Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California–have worked to break new ground in relations between tribes and their federal, state, and provincial partners, as well as their counterparts in industry. They have worked tirelessly to protect ocean and salmon health, restore traditional foods through innovative resource management, and revive cultural traditions and languages. They have fought to protect the Porcupine caribou herd and its pristine habitat. They have pushed back against drilling in sacred places and have worked to strengthen families and protect Native children.
“This is a recognition of a new generation of leaders — the one our grandparents looked toward — with the infrastructure and the expertise to be able to do the great work we’re doing now.”
–Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians
To date, 57 Indigenous leaders from across the bioregion have been recognized. It’s a rigorous review process. Native and non-Native nominators gather stories, endorsements, supporting materials, and recommendation letters in recognition and gratitude for the nominee’s service and dedication. A reading panel comprised of tribal leaders from throughout Salmon Nation and Ecotrust staff members convene annually to review the nominations and narrow the field to five honorees. A final jury panel of senior tribal leaders from both the U.S. and British Columbia and Ecotrust’s Board Chair, Spencer Beebe, select one awardee, who receives an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000. The remaining four honorees receive $5,000 each.
A dinner is held in Portland every fall where colleagues, families, and friends joined together to celebrate the achievements of the awardee and honorees and their unwavering dedication to improving the environmental, cultural, social, and economic conditions of their communities.
After a few years on hiatus, we will resume the award and grow and strengthen the network of these remarkable leaders in 2020.
The late Billy Frank, Jr. responds to Jon Waterhouse's call for human connection from the podium at the 2012 Indigenous Leadership Award Ceremony
Full awardee and honoree list
Roberta Reyes Cordero, Awardee, of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, is a cultural ambassador and conflict resolution professional. For nearly twenty years she has been actively pursuing ways to give tribal people a voice in coastal marine planning in California. Aided by her efforts, the Chumash Nation has reestablished a connection to its canoeing and seafaring roots, which has led to a resurgence of the Chumash language, the preparation of Native foods, creation of art, and a reestablishment of family connections among tribal members. Read more about Roberta’s work.
Annita McPhee is an accomplished professional and leader who has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the economic prosperity of her Tahltan Nation people while protecting their lands and way of life in northwestern British Columbia. Annita has negotiated agreements with industry and the B.C. Government on revenue sharing and shared decision making, and helped to permanently protect the Sacred Headwaters region of British Columbia from resource development. Read more about Annita’s work.
Eric J. Quaempts is director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation department of natural resources and a Yakama tribal member who has shown visionary leadership integrating traditional ecological and cultural knowledge with scientific practice. Building on almost 30 years of experience as a wildlife biologist, he has restructured his department around First Foods — water, salmon (fish), deer (large land mammals), cous (roots), and berries — which are deeply ingrained in tribal traditions and rituals. This has resonated with tribal community members, their partners, United States Tribes, federal and state agencies, and other indigenous communities, from Washington to Australia and Chile. Read more about Eric’s work.
Roy Sampsel (Choctaw/Wyandotte) (1941 – 2017) has made contributions to indigenous governance and environmental stewardship at the highest levels of the United States federal government. In rising to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, he worked on tribal rights protection and natural resource management and implementation of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act. He also led the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Roy recently stepped down as Director of the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University and today is president of a Portland natural resources consulting firm. Read more about Roy’s work.
Arthur Williams Sterritt (Gitga’at) has fought tirelessly for protection and sustainable prosperity for the Great Bear Rainforest coastal region of British Columbia. His many leadership roles have included Chief Negotiator for the Gitga’at First Nation, Treaty Commissioner, Executive Director of the Gitga’at Development Corporation, and co-founder and Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations: Great Bear Initiative. Art is also an accomplished artist specializing in painting screens and woodcarving. Read more about Art’s work.
Delores Ann Pigsley (Siletz), Awardee
Nora Dauenhauer (Tlingit) (1927 – 2017)
Chief Adam Dick (Kawadillikall Clan of the Dzawatainuk Tribe of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation) (1929 – 2018)
Wayne Warren Don (Cup’ig/Yupik)
Chuck Sams (Cocopa)
W. Ron Allen (Jamestown S’Klallam), Awardee
Robi Michelle Craig (Kiks.adi Clan, Steel House, Tlingit)
Leaf Hillman (Karuk)
Chief Robert Simeon Pasco (Nlaka’pamux Nation)
Shawn E. Yanity (Stillaguamish)